Monday, August 15, 2011

Hunting and Gathering

Text and photos by Trina

Lest I be accused of exaggerating when I say I killed over 100 squash bugs in the garden this morning, I've put together this handy multiplication table of them:

Need a closer look?

Yes, you'll have noted by now that 10x9 does not equal over 100. This is the 90 I caught. Half again this many (do the math: 45ish) jumped and scrambled to safety or fell to the ground after being squished, cut in half or otherwise mutilated, and for various reasons were not retrieved.

The damage to squash plants is extensive. All the marina di chioggias died early on, long before they even thought about making flowers or fruit; the Amish pie pumkins are heading that direction; and the last remaining kikuza pumpkin is a wash, as every one of its blossoms has withered, I presume due to the stress on the plant caused by the squash bugs:

There are a handful of organic methods for dealing with squash bugs: manually searching for and killing them and their eggs every morning and every evening; planting nicotiana, nasturtium and marigolds to deter them; planting a trap crop (in our case, the marina di chioggias volunteered for this role); spraying with Neem oil... all of which we did, apparently to no avail. In fact, our observation has been that the nasturtium which squash bugs are supposed to fear and loathe -- and which I seeded in dense rows between the squash rows -- have actually been serving as a quite desirable habitat and hiding place. I sent them all to their next incarnation as compost this morning.

The butternuts appear to be the only squash bug resistant variety, in our garden anyway (and perhaps the only variety we should ever try to grow again.) The challenge with those, because we grow them on a vertical trellis, is remembering to get them tied up, or in mesh bags or pantyhose, before they get so heavy that they start to break off from the vine... which is what happened to this one:

~ ~ ~

Would that the mushroom hunting were as productive this year as the squash bug hunting! My "office" affords a view of the nearby mountains where the mushrooms grow when it has rained enough, and every afternoon for the past two weeks I've been watching as great, billowing, cauliflower-y would-be thunderheads brew and... and... and... make no rain.

As a result, the pickins so far this season have been slim, but we've still enjoyed seeing the variety of bizarre and beautiful fungal life forms, edible or not, that do pop up (just not in great quantities) even after just a single day of showers.

A modest (compared to this time last year), early season haul:

If nothing else, the romp in the forest made the dogs happy.

1 comment:

  1. Those are some beautiful butternut squash. I miss squash. They don't grow much of it in Ireland -- it's so wet here that the leaves mildew and die.

    I've been trying to learn a bit more about permaculture lately. I read "One Straw Revolution" and am halfway through "Gaia's Garden". I read today that many marigolds actually attract insects. You probably already knew that, but just in case you didn't, make sure you have the god-awful smelling kind.

    I sure miss you guys. Alex told me that your garden looks like a piece of European paradise.